RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Three weeks after taking over Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, this morning, the Taliban have finally announced an interim government. NPR's Jackie Northam is covering it and joins us now. Jackie, thanks for being here.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: What do we know? Who is in these cabinet positions?
NORTHAM: Well, it's interesting. You know, this is supposed to be a new, albeit interim government. But really, it's made up of the old guard of the Taliban. There are a lot of familiar names here and a lot of old faces. It - the interim government is going to be led by somebody named Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund. And he's considered a hard-liner from Kandahar, which was a Taliban base. He was a deputy prime minister during the previous Taliban government when it ruled Afghanistan in the '90s. And he's also been on the Taliban's leadership council for 20 years.
The other one is Mullah Baradar. And this was the man who was actually expected to lead the new government. He's the head of the Taliban's political office. He will become deputy PM. But again, it's kind of a surprise that he was not put into the top position here. Couple of other names I'll throw you, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob is going to be the interim defense minister. And he's the son of Mullah Omar, who founded the Taliban. And the last one is Sirajuddin Haqqani. And he's the interior minister. And this is a pretty controversial appointment because he's a member of the Haqqani network, which is really an extremist branch of the Taliban. And the West has accused them of being behind large terror attacks in the past.
MARTIN: So the United States, to the degree that it has influence over this process, has asked, pushed, nudged the Taliban to create an inclusive government. This is the old guard, right? These are majority Pashtuns. The ethnic minorities aren't representative. It's not exactly inclusive.
NORTHAM: No, it certainly is not. You know, the Taliban doesn't actually broadcast what it's planning to do. But it was considered that they were looking at, you know, bringing back something like former Afghan President Hamid Karzai or Abdullah Abdullah, who was a key figure in the former Afghan government to just somehow give it that sense that it is inclusive. So far, that has not been the case. There was no indication that they were going to be part of it. Also, Rachel, there was no indication that any women would be part of the new interim government. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid when he was asked about this when he was announcing the new government, he hedged. He said, well, you know, they're going to - you know, still more ministries to be named. And he hinted that women's rights would be addressed. But he did not say women would have any role.
MARTIN: Why did this take so long - three weeks? I mean, it seems like they could have put this together earlier since they knew who they wanted.
NORTHAM: Yeah, they've probably had time to think about who's going to go in. Yeah. But, you know, part of the problem is the Taliban is divisive, you know? You've got a leadership that wants to appear more moderate so it's not considered a pariah state. And, you know, it can help get international funding because, you know, Afghanistan is in a real severe economic decline. Then you have the other end of the spectrum, which are the hard line militants who have fought for two decades to try and create this Sharia state, this pure, Islamic State. Somehow, they have to balance the two of those so they can keep the Taliban a cohesive force now that they've actually captured Afghanistan.
MARTIN: Well, we will keep tabs on what the public reaction has been. We should just note that women's protests continue in the capital city, Kabul.
MARTIN: NPR's Jackie Northam. Thank you.
NORTHAM: Thanks so much. Bye, bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.